Listen To Article
This past week, the congregation I serve lost three beloved saints within days of each other. Pat Muyskens, Jo Leslie, and Dave Van Englenhoven. All of them, marked as God’s own in the waters of baptism. All of them, so dear to our church family and wider community. Our congregation is grieving.
Amid the tinsel and bright lights of a culture that wants to rush to Christmas Joy, the season of Advent graces us with time and space to resist hurry, to sit in the dark, and to get present to our heartache and yearning for Christ’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Advent shepherds us, ever so gently, into a space where we can sing our pain and pray our tears.
For my post today, I want to share with you an Advent poem written by a parishioner and dear friend, Jeff Barker, for our grieving congregation. We are dwelling in Isaiah 40 for the season of Advent, and so you will hear intonations of the prophet and his song of hope. Feel free to insert the names of those whom you’ve loved and lost. Let this poem be a prayer, joining the whole creation in its waiting, with deep groans, for the birth of a new world. A new world where, at long last, all things shall finally be made well.
By Jeff Barker
The storms of winter have not yet begun,
but the icy cold of sorrow and loss
set in this past week.
Pat, then Jo, and then Dave:
three saints of our village gone,
falling suddenly together,
leaving a tall drift of grief.
“Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song.”
We are grateful to have known them each:
Pat, and Jo, and Dave.
But for some of us, it seems too soon
to raise a song.
The tears are still on our cheeks.
We know the world is God’s own,
and at his allowance, the wheat and tares
grow side by side—joy and sorrow,
side by side.
There have been so many—
so many loved ones,
loved by us but lost to us
this long, cold season.
Where are they?
Are they awaiting the resurrection,
waiting for the moment when their savior
gives his angels charge at last,
and there is a shout and the sound of a trumpet
when the dead in Christ shall rise?
Or are they absent from their bodies
but already present with the Lord?
Must they wait longer, or
is their waiting complete?
Yes, their waiting is complete,
They are free from sorrow, free from sin . . .
free from the beep of the monitoring machine,
free from not knowing if it is night or day,
free from the weighty breath,
free from pain.
“Even so, Lord, quickly come,
Bring Thy final harvest home.”
We are tired.
We are tired of waiting.
We want to see you, Jesus.
We wait for you.
We wait, we wait, we wait.
And we are told that those who wait
for the Lord shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory, as they wait for us. Dave was my VBS teacher almost 60 years ago at the New Brooklyn Reformed Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn, New York.
Thank you, Brian.
Thank you, Jeff.
Peace . . .
Thank you, Brian, for the Christian comfort you offer concerning the three members of your church whose life and earthly journey has come to an end. It’s a comfort that all religions offer hope at the passing from this life. It’s a shame that all religions find fault in the hope that other religions offer. And yet members of the different religions of the world have the same conviction (as Christians) that their own religion offers the one true hope in life and death, based on divinely inspired Scriptures. Are these many different religions merely human expressions of the wishful thinking that there is more to life than what we experience here on earth, in fact a better life? In the fact that there are so many different expressions of this hope (different religions), isn’t there a real possibility that they all are just human expressions wearing the same mask of divinity? Thanks, Brian, for your take on the Christian’s comfort.
Thank you Brian for a tenderly written lead in to an honest yet hopeful poem for Advent and life itself.
Jeff, thank you for this tender and comforting Advent poem. Brian, thank you for sharing this with all of us. I pray that God will comfort the families and the folks at Trinity Church. Jeff, you continue to bless so many of us. Grace and peace to both of you.